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Trust is something that can be hard to gain and easy to lose. It is unequivocally a vital element in the formation and endurance of relationships, particularly those of quality and those of close ties, such as marriages, parenthood, and deep friendships. One who desires an intimate relationship with us is God. Of all those who live, none are more trustworthy than God, yet so many of us have a hard time trusting The Almighty.

The reasons are many, but one common reason I have mentioned at times before is that when people have a poor relationship with their earthly father it usually spills over into their relationship with God, and like it or not, we tend to view Him through the lens of our male parent.


I have already spoken at length in the past about the struggles me and Dad went through, and also the glorious truth that we mended our relationship before he died. Thus my focus today will not be on these past struggles. This time it will be on my journey in learning to trust God. My prayer is that whoever reads this will be helped if they have struggled in trusting the Lord.


From the pulpit we have traditionally gotten two extreme versions of God—the indulgent father or grandfather who will let us get away with just about anything because He loves us and the extremely harsh tyrant who is just waiting to punish us or even reject us. Neither of these extremes are Biblical. In the times we live in, it seems that the former version of God, full of slippery and easy grace, is being foisted upon parishioners.


The tyrant God still has those who preach Him, however, and that is the one which is more relative to me. If I have ever viewed God as a “do-as-you-pleaser” then it must have been in few and fleeting moments, for I cannot immediately remember seeing Him as being that way. On the other hand, I have had plenty of experience viewing the Lord as an angry, harsh, capricious slavedriver who is far more willing to punish or reject than to forgive. To be fair, there is a wrathful side to God, and we cannot be casual about our relationship with Him as Christians:


Colossians 1:21-23a:  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard,…


Hebrews 10:38, 12:14:  “…Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”…Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:…


Taken with the utmost literalness, passages such as these seem to suggest that we will be considered faithful and holy to God and therefore worthy of heaven only if we never backslide or never otherwise have any serious struggles in our Christian walk. These sorts of Scriptures are the ones I have wrestled with many times, going through the nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching torture of wondering if I have been rejected by God because I have had some struggles and backslidings in my past. These are the kinds of thoughts that would steal my sleep and induce me to give up on everything, even on life itself. After all, if there is no more hope, then what difference does it make whether I live or die? If I live I might as well return to a life of sin because God has given up on me and if I die I will go to hell because I have forfeited my salvation—if God ever even forgave me in the first place.

These were hard thoughts to live with! Compounding these struggles I have had in the past are the writings of the early Church fathers. These great men of God have left us a treasure trove of what right Christian doctrine and living look like. However, saints though they were, they were also fallible men and did not always have the right answers or beliefs.


Two things which stand out in the writings of these ancient saints are the importance of holiness and the necessity of persevering in the faith. Now, of course we are to live holy lives and not turn our backs on God. The early Church fathers, however, took this to a different level. In fact, they took it into the stratosphere! To read their writings one would think that a backslider had fully rejected the faith or had even blasphemed the Holy Spirit simply by committing sins. The latter assertion is an incorrect exposition of the Scriptures, but I will not address it here. Just remember that this assertion came from a man (Origen) who castrated himself to avoid sexual sin. Legalistic, I would say!


By the 200’s AD a fascination with asceticism developed among many believers, and before long we had monks and nuns. The stringency of the early Church fathers reached a point to where it was believed that if you sinned at all after being baptized, you forfeited your salvation. Technically, even the smallest sins imaginable are still that—sins—and therefore are disqualifiers of salvation in this point of view. I personally cannot comprehend how anyone who lived under this theology could ever have had any joy.


Naturally, the world into which the Church was born and came of age was very different in some respects from the world of today. Besides the primitive living conditions, people were often harsh and cruel. For instance, it was widely known and understood that people who had unwanted babies would “expose” them—abandoning them in the wilderness to die of privation, exposure to the elements, or attacks from wild animals. All manner of sexual debauchery was practiced. The public baths of Rome were little more than homosexual hookup spots, and yes, they did it in front of anyone there. In ancient Greece there was man-boy love—I am not kidding.

Pagan religious practices were widespread and strongly encouraged. To go against them was to risk not only social ostracism but also persecution and death. In this hellish crucible of sin the early Christians usually only had each other, since they were often rejected and, in the pre-Constantine era, viciously persecuted.


The temptations to fall away from the faith were many, so these ancient saints had to develop a steely resolve to stay true to Jesus Christ no matter what they faced. Living under such brutal conditions, despite the undoubted sincerity of these believers to persevere and live righteously, perhaps this same resolve led to beliefs that were unbiblical, legalistic, and impossible to live up to.

The Jewish Pharisees had a veritable mountain of laws to live by, and in like fashion the early Church fathers seemed to have hatched a neo-Pharasaical form of faith. In all their striving for holiness and perseverance, where was the concept of God as a loving heavenly Father?


From the beginning, God intended the family to be the fundamental building block of any society, springing out of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:21-24). It is natural even for sinners to love their children and give them good things (Matthew 7:7-11). Despite the cruelty of  ancient societies with things such as exposing babies, man-boy love, and so on, a lot of the people back in those days did really love their children. The concept of familial love was certainly not lost on the early Christians (Ephesians 5:226:4). The New Testament has references to God as our Father, as we can see from these examples:


Matthew 10:29-31:  “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”


Romans 8:14-17a:  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,…


Ephesians 1:3-6:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.


I only have a hypothesis, which I have already shared, as to why the views of the early Church fathers were so strict and heavily conditional concerning one’s relationship with God and one’s ongoing salvation. Actual answers, I do not have. Where was the concept of God as a loving heavenly Father? How could He even be viewed as such if believers had to walk such a spiritual tightrope in order to avoid forfeiting their salvation? What kind of God was He, anyway, if He was so hard to please? In my walk with God, I have had to find the answers I needed in the very first place we all should look: The Bible. I also have had to learn by living in my own relationship with my heavenly Father.


Trust in God has not come easily for me. Despite the mending of mine and Dad’s relationship, the damage he did to me was very serious, and although I have experienced both healing and deliverance, there are still scars that have to be removed. From time to time I still have agonizing times of doubt about where I stand with God. In His great patience and love, God has always made sure I know that He loves me and has not given up on me.

From Facebook feeds to Christian songs popping up on YouTube, I find references to the love of God as our heavenly Father. I know in my spirit that He is aiming these right at me. I am amazed that after all the times I have questioned and doubted the motives of the totally Righteous One that He has not disowned me. For those of you who are parents, think about this: No matter what your child does, even after he or she is grown, your default reaction to them is not to give up on them, is it? If imperfect human beings are capable of such devotion to their children, then how much more devoted is God our Father to those of us who are His children? If we really want out of a relationship with God, He will let us go because He does not take away our freedom of choice.


However, when we err, when we stumble, even when we backslide, God loves us so much that He will fight for us, even punishing us if necessary in order to straighten us out and bring us back to Himself (Hebrews 12:3-11). I have, at times, experienced the chastening hand of God. Why would I go through that if I did not belong to Him? Remember that the next time you doubt your relationship with Him. If a person has forfeited his or her salvation, that person will have been given over to a reprobate mind and thus will no longer even care (Romans 1:18-32), so if you are still concerned then you have not crossed that line.


I am pleased to be a child of God and to know that He has not cast me off. I have persevered, not in that I have had my struggles, but because in all this I have never left the faith and walked with all my heart away from God. I always came back, gaining more trust each time in seeing that God had not quit on me.

My prayer now is that the Lord would remove any remaining psychological and spiritual scars in me so that I can enjoy a more perfect union with Him, for he who still fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:17-18). I want to remain in a relationship with Jesus Christ always, and I think of how He has loved me and kept me faithfully since I was saved back in 1995. God has answered many of my prayers and has blessed me daily. If nothing else, every breath and every heartbeat are a gift from God.

He is Abba, Father in fact, and He is becoming Abba, Father, to me as my trust in Him grows. When I struggle, He is there not to destroy but to help, and if believers were honest about it they would admit that they have, or have had, struggles with the flesh as well. Thank you, God, for never giving up on me.


Psalm 103:8-14:  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.



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